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Shopstreaming: The Trend That May Change the Way You Shop

Unboxing videos are fun, right? You get to watch your favorite social media influencer unwrap her latest ecommerce haul, with full commentary on how the purchase meets up with her expectations. But the unboxing video is already last year’s news.

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That’s because shopstreaming is quickly becoming the hot new trend of ecommerce shopping.

Shopstreaming, also called livestreaming or livestreamed shopping, is a live, interactive video event featuring a social media influencer who’s either demonstrating a product or shopping for products.

Social media influencer producing shopstreaming event.

You get to see what she buys, hear why she buys it, ask product questions, and interact with other participants. But here’s the kicker. You can also click and buy product for yourself — often at a discounted price.

Entertainment, product demo, and shopping in one

That makes shopstreaming one part entertainment, one part product demo, and one part shopping. Think of it as the internet’s version of the home shopping network. Except it’s far more interactive and features a social media influencer you already know and trust.

This trend has taken over the interwebs in China and is now growing in popularity in the U.S. According to a 2016 internet trends report from venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, shopstreaming broadcasts were the top source of revenue per hour in China, beating out gaming, TV, online video, radio, and music. It’s now generating $135 billion annually in ecommerce revenue in that country.

Shopstreaming by the numbers

Boston-based influencer marketing agency Influence Central conducted a survey of 475 shoppers last year to gage how livestreamed shopping is picking up speed in the U.S. That survey found:

  • Only 19% of people in the U.S. have tuned into a livestreamed shopping event.
  • Among those who had tried shopstreaming, 86% did so on Facebook. Only 30% had participated in a livestreamed shopping event on Instagram, and only 12% on YouTube.
  • 60% of consumers found live demos and product walk-throughs the biggest draws of livestreamed shopping events — with a special deal only available during the live event a powerful driving factor in their participation.

Entertainment plus insider product access

Girl shops for clothes on her phone during shopstreaming event.

Stacy DeBroff, CEO and founder of Influence Central, expects a certain type of shopper to gravitate to shopstreaming events. If you are already following social media influencers for curated product or style advice, shopstreaming is the next obvious step for you. Or, if you’re loyal to a particular brand, you might tune into a livestream for insider information, exclusive access to new products, and special pricing.  

The biggest draw for consumers comes from livestreaming’s unique mix of entertainment, behind-the-scenes product information, shared commenting with others, and simple click-to-buy options. Viewers can ask personalized questions about the product or service or how to use it — something not possible with standard video sharing on Instagram or YouTube.

Stacy DeBroff, Influence Central

Walmart, H&M producing fashion, beauty shopstreams

Walmart partnered with TikTok in December, 2020 to produce its first livestreamed shopping experience in the U.S. According to TechCrunch, the mass market retailer did not share the sales generated from the apparel-focused event — though Walmart did admit the event increased its TikTok follower base by 25%.

Walmart then held a second shopstream on March 11, again on TikTok. That second event was all about beauty. Influencer and model Gabby Morrison (who has 3.5 million followers on TikTok) and other TikTok creators demonstrated their skincare and makeup regimens — using brands and products available at Walmart.

Shoppers who “attended” the event came away with a quick beauty lesson. Plus, adding those beauty items to their shopping cart was as easy as tapping product pins in TikTok. They could then complete the purchase during or after the event.

H&M‘s shopstream events have been self-hosted, rather than on a social media app. The H&M brand Monki, which has a mostly millennial shopper base, started hosting livestreams in 2019. And H&M held one last July, that you could access on the H&M website or in the H&M app.

Where to find shopstreams

Your favorite brands and social media influencers will promote their shopstreams through the normal channels. You can bet those promotions will tease you with a special deal. According to DeBroff, exclusive access to product or pricing is key to a shopstream’s success.

So expect livestreaming offers to be unique: and better than other promotions out there — whether a unique new product or lower price point.

Stacy DeBroff, Influence Central

If you’re already following influencers and brands on TikTok, Facebook, or Instagram, you’ll hear about it.

What to know before you attend a shopstream

Shopstreams can be entertaining, but there are also practical reasons to tune in. Of course you want “the deal.” Secondly, you also want product information that isn’t available elsewhere — for example, how blend-able is that eye shadow, really? What does it really look like on a person who’s not posing for a magazine ad?

To make the shopstream worth your time, first come prepared with product questions. You’ll have access to your influencer who’s hopefully a product expert; show up ready to use that access.

Secondly — and this probably goes without saying — but don’t assume the “deal” is once-in-a-lifetime. Do a quick online search to validate the pricing before you type in your credit card digits. If you find the deal isn’t as life-changing as described, you know not to attend that brand’s shopstream again. That’s how to hold brands and your influencers accountable for the pitches they make to you.

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